The Washington Growers League has built a housing facility for seasonal farm workers at Brender Creek, Cashmere, in north central Washington.
The building, which was completed in April and will have its official opening on May 6, can accommodate 200 people. (Read about the opening: Growers League opens farmworker housing)
The Growers League has been operating the Sage Bluff worker housing facility near Malaga since 2009. Mike Gempler, executive director of the Growers League, said his group saw a need for more housing north of Wenatchee. Brender Creek is in the heart of the Wenatchee Valley’s pear growing region, but it can also serve workers in the Orondo area on the east side of the Columbia River
“There just seems to be high demand for housing in that area, with the amount of agriculture there,” Gempler said.
Chelan County operates a camp at Monitor Park, near Cashmere, where workers are housed in tents and trailers, but Gempler said the future of that camp is uncertain, and his organization felt that solid structures with air conditioning and heating would be better for workers.
The Brender Creek housing is built on a seven-acre piece of land that was formerly pasture. Almost a third of the area is classified as wetlands and can’t be built on.
The architect, Environmental Works, of Seattle, designed the facility to maximize the community feel and to encourage people to interact. There’s a meeting room in the central building as well as a playground, games area, and covered outdoor eating area. But there are also porches, patios, shelters, and tree-shaded picnic tables where residents can spend time alone.
The new housing consists of six two-story buildings with eight bedrooms fitted with three or four bunks. Each floor has its own kitchen, bathrooms, and shower. This differs from the Sage Bluff facility, which has centralized bathrooms and eating facilities.
“We certainly have learned from Sage Bluff in terms of how to size things and split up the sleeping units a little more,” Gempler said, noting that having rooms of different sizes makes it easier to accommodate families. “I’m just excited we got to try a different model. We’re looking at some other developments as well. With more experience under our belts, we feel we can do a better and better job.”
The $6 million facility was built by Walker Construction of Spokane and was funded primarily with a grant from the Housing Trust Fund of the Washington State Department of Commerce.
The facilities are seasonal, which means that workers cannot stay there year round. The housing will remain open as long as there’s demand, said Gempler, who expects that Brender Creek will shut down for part of the year.
Rates will be $8 per bed per night for walk-ins or $9 if the beds are reserved in advance. Growers can lease blocks of rooms for their workers. To reserve beds, contact Jesse Lane at (509) 670-3032 or Cody Chrismer at (509) 895-9140. •